Modality as a Discourse Strategy in New Nigerian Poetry

Romanus Aboh


A good number of scholarly criticism on both the thematic and linguistic engagements of new Nigerian poetry have been undertaken, revealing, in varied degrees, how the preoccupation of new Nigerian poetry can hardly be separated from the decadent socio-political environment that created it. Yet, the utilization of modality by new Nigerian poets in recounting and refracting the socio-political quagmire of their time has not attracted the attention of linguists, and this tends to undermine the elemental role of modal verbs in expressing a poet's thoughts. This paper, therefore, interrogates the use of modality as a discourse strategy in new Nigerian poetry and argues that the language of new Nigerian poetry is a reflection of the Nigerian socio-political predicament. In doing this, the paper examines four Nigerian poets who were purposefully and randomly sampled to cover the four geographical distribution of Nigeria: Joe Ushie's Hill Songs is selected to represent southern Nigeria and Musa Okpanachi's The Eaters of the Living is drawn from northern Nigeria. While Ademola Daslyva's Songs of Odamolugbe represents western Nigeria, Ifeanyi Ogbonnaya's ...and Pigs shall Become House Cleaners is taken from eastern Nigeria. The analysis reveals that modality as a linguistic device is widely used by new Nigerian poets in questioning the abuse of power and office by the political class, as well as to incite the neglected masses to rise to the occasion of radically changing their humiliating socio-political situation.

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